Steven Soderbergh's latest Unsane features a commanding performance from actress Claire Foy. While a solid entry in the "are they or aren't they insane?" thriller sub-genre, the film may most be remembered as the movie Soderbergh shot on an iPhone 7. The film is solid entertainment, but it doesn't do much original or exciting with its plot and instead works as a testimonial to how far modern technology has advanced. Still worth watching, it's a well-made flick with a lot of inventive camera work but don't demand too much from it. Universal Studios brings Unsane to 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray with a notable uptick in clarity, details, and the HDR10 grading lends itself well to this stylized film offering a marked improvement over its SDR Blu-ray counterpart. This disc features the same DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix, but that's not a detriment as it works very well. Sadly no other extra features were compiled for the 4K disc. Overall the movie is a good time so do give it a spin. Recommended.
We also reviewed this movie on Blu-ray.
"People leave Highland Creek healthier than when they come in."
For a guy who keeps saying he may retire, Steven Soderbergh keeps making a lot of movies. Ever the visual and technological experimenter, he brings all of his best talents and his iPhone to Unsane. Featuring a stellar turn from Claire Foy, Unsane doesn't exactly mix anything new into the stew of the "are they or aren't they insane?" sub-genre, but it manages to hold its own. It's Soderbergh's inventive use of a camera phone to capture the film that commands attention as the small device allows shots from virtually every conceivable angle giving a simplistic storyline a visual punch of dread and suspense.
Sawyer Valentini (Claire Foy) should be living the life of her dreams. Young, attractive, and successful - she commands the attention of the men around her while enjoying praise at work and advancing quickly. However, her life is anything but perfect. A victim of a stalker, she hasn't been able to regain a normal life after leaving her home of Boston behind, exiting social media, and cutting off ties with old friends and family. When she makes an appointment with Highland Creek for counseling to help her get over her fears, she unwittingly involuntarily commits herself. Her situation becomes a nightmare when an orderly who looks exactly like her stalker (Joshua Leonard) starts dispensing her medication. Is Sawyer being scammed? Or is she actually insane?
Movies in the "are they or aren't they insane?" sub-genre -- including recent productions like A Cure for Wellness, FX's Legion, and even Hereditary to an extent -- all play around with ideas of mental illness and unreliable narrators, offering up some interesting opportunities to expand the Thriller genre. To the credit of Unsane, Soderbergh and company have crafted a tight and suspenseful little yarn. If there's a lesson to be learned from a film like this is to make sure you read over every line of any document you sign. That said, Unsane doesn't really do a whole lot new or exciting with the material. Where there may be some brief suspicion or doubt about what's going on, but by the 40-minute mark, the particulars are plainly clear and the path the story travels isn't all that new or exciting.
What Unsane does have going for it is Soderbergh's need to play and experiment. This time, he's decided to just shoot the whole movie on his iPhone 7. What initially seems like a stunt actually proves to be pretty effective and inventive. With a small camera like that, Soderbergh exploits the device's mobility and the ability to put the thing nearly anywhere he wants with some impressive results. While not appearing like professional grade camera equipment, a clean image is captured that actually helps boost a sense of paranoia and suspense that Sawyer could be viewed by anyone anywhere maintaining a constant sense of dread. With some purposeful and stylized processing in post-production, the image ends up looking like hyper-sensitive 16mm reversal color stock giving the image a bit of grit and an uncomfortable punch as that camera can get very close to people's faces.
Taken as a whole, I wasn't completely blown away by the movie. Soderbergh has obviously made better movies in the past, but Unsane is solid material. Certainly better than Contagion, I would put it about on par with Side Effects as a strong, entertaining flick that doesn't quite live up to potential. As much as the film is impressive visually, Foy is the real stand out here. Coupled with a creepy turn from Joshua Leonard, she delivers a hell of a performance. The flick is a good time despite some plot shortcomings.
Vital Disc Stats: The 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray
Universal locks up Unsane onto 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray in a two-disc, 4K UHD + Blu-ray + Digital set. Pressed onto a BD-66 disc, the discs are housed in a standard two-disc black UHD case with identical slipcover artwork. The disc loads directly to a static image main menu with traditional navigation options. The digital copy can be redeemed through Movies Anywhere and does unlock a 4K copy onto VUDU, FandangoNow, and iTunes. However, the 4K UHD stream only features HDR10, no Dolby Vision presentation appears to be available.
Considering the source of the image, I really wasn't expecting Unsane to experience much of an improvement or an enhanced viewing experience in 2160p with HDR10. Color me surprised. Unsane looks amazing in 4K and the extra HDR push really brings the image to life in a way that really pops the colors thematically. However, like its SDR Blu-ray counterpart, Unsane doesn't look like your average modern release so you're left grading how this image appears against itself. Shooting the film on an iPhone offered up several advantages while exposing various disadvantages.
On the front end, the image sports a notable improvement in fine detail. As there are numerous close-ups, you can clearly spot an improvement in fine facial features. At the same time, the outdoor garden where Sawyer and Nate hang out looks fantastic noting cleaner lines and features in the rocks and foliage. It's not as sharp or crystal clear as something captured with high-grade cameras would appear, but it's still striking and impressive for what phone camera.
Where this image really comes to life is with the HDR10 push. It may be a bit on the thick side, but for this movie, it works very well, lending itself to the stylings of the film. Colors are rich with plenty of pop. Blues are particularly well saturated with a pronounced grading. The color is an important reoccurring thematic element and it really has some snap now. Black levels and contrast are also dialed up quite a bit giving the image a much darker, inkier appearance that gives a more pronounced ominous vibe while the white outfits of the hospital orderlies are extra crisp and flawless. On the flip side, the digital grain added to the image is a bit more noticeable now and can vary in severity bordering on a bit of a noisy look at times. Also, some strobing and a little edge ringing cropped up for a very brief moment towards the last act. Again, like the SDR Blu-ray, this 4K Ultra HD transfer is a pretty unique visual experience but in an apple to oranges comparison, the 4K UHD image is a lot stronger and a more effective presentation.
Unsane sparks with a solid DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix. The dialog is clean and clear throughout with only a few instances where words could have a tinny hollow quality to them - that may have been due to the setting. This anomaly is in the last act and takes place in a confined location (I don't want to say more due to potential spoilers). Sound effects have a natural quality to them with a subdued presence. The mix feels largely front/center focused, but small movements of the patients in the dining hall or in the bedrooms keep the mix alive. Little effects like medications falling into the paper serving cups have an uncomfortable little punch to them that kicks up the ominous tone of the film. Scoring by Thomas Newman is simple and subdued but hits notes when and where important without becoming too intrusive. Levels are spot on. Once you have them at a nice even level don't adjust them. Some soft dialogue from side characters is intentionally out of range so don't feel the need to adjust things.
The bonus features package is so underwhelming and nonexistent that I almost wish they didn't include anything at all. The single, lowly featurette is so brief and informal that it hardly counts. Maybe a better special edition package is intended down the line?
Unsanity (HD 4:26) This is a typical talking-heads EPK bonus feature that says little and does even less.
Unsane is an inventive thriller that unfortunately follows a pretty pedestrian path. In the sub-genre of "sanity vs insanity," Unsane doesn't shake things up - but how the film is told makes it interesting and unique. Claire Foy delivers a hell of a performance and commands every scene while Steven Soderbergh keeps the show together using inventive visual techniques afforded by the freedoms of an iPhone 7 that lends a terrific sense of paranoia and dread to the predictability of the plot.
Universal Studios brings Unsane to 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray in terrific order. Surprisingly enough the image enjoys a notable boost in clarity while basking in a strong HDR10 pass that heightens the mood and intensity of the visuals. The same solid audio mix as the SDR Blu-ray is carried over. Unfortunately, no other new bonus features are found on the UHD disc. This film demands more making-of bonus content than what is provided. All in all, I dug this movie as it proved to be a good way to spend 90-minutes of an evening. Recommended.